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Evaluating current European agri-environment schemes to quantify and improve nature conservation efforts in agricultural landscapes

Agri-environment schemes cover a wide range of meas ures that differ depending on aim, country or even region, but have in common that farmers are being paid to adapt the management on (parts of) their farms to the benefit of biodiversity, environment or landscape. Agri-environment schemes play an increasingly important role in The European Union's Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) to support biodiversity and environment in agricultural landscapes. They have been implemented since 1992 as a result of EEC regulation 2078/92. Still, there is very little evidence that these schemes actually do contribute to the conservation of particularly biodiversity.

The primary objective of this project is to evaluate a selection of agri-environment schemes (one widespread scheme in each country) with respect to their effects on biodiversity conservation in five European countries. Furthermore, EASY aims to determine the primary processes and environmental factors that influence the effectiveness of schemes. Questions that will be addressed are (1) what spatial scales are most suitable for conservation efforts aimed at species groups with different mobilities, (2) how does landscape structure affect the effectiveness of schemes, (3) how does the local species pool affect the effectiveness of schemes and (4) what effects do schemes have on ecosystem processes such as pollination and pest control.

We aim to place the ecological effects into an economic framework by investigating the impacts of the studied agri-environment schemes on the farming system.

Furthermore EASY aims to determine how CAP may be introduced in Hungary without unacceptable loss of biodiversity.

Based on this, recommendations will be made how the effectiveness of the studied schemes may be improved and simple guidelines will be produced how ecological effects of agri-environment schemes can be evaluated efficiently by governmental authorities or other institutions.

Progress to Date
In order to find out what spatial scales are most suitable for conservation efforts both experimental and descriptive studies have been implemented on plants (CH-WSL), bees (CH-WSL, NL), hover flies (CH-WSL, NL, UK) and birds (NL). Species identification and data analysis is underway.

To find out how landscape structure affects the effectiveness of schemes analyses are in progress that examine whether the effectiveness of schemes depends on landscape context in a radius of 500 m around the 2003 study sites. Additional experimental studies that examine how structure and connectivity of the agricultural landscape affects species richness of insects have been carried out in CH-FAL and D.

To examine whether the species pool affects the effectiveness of schemes, the difference in biodiversity between paired fields with and without schemes (2003 data) is being related to the regional species pool for various species groups in E and for birds in all participating countries. Additionally, in CH-FAL the local species pool of grasshoppers has been experimentally enhanced on both scheme and control sites to examine whether this improves performance of the schemes.

Further studies have been carried out in D, CH-WSL and NL to examine how ecosystem processes are influenced by agri-schemes and whether this is further affected by landscape context at various spatial scales.

Finally, the economic data of the farms that participated in the 2003 survey in D, E, NL and the UK are currently being analyzed by EL to investigate the economic consequences of introducing agri-environment schemes on farming enterprises.

In 2005, a number of concluding experiment have been performed. Other than that, 2005 has largely been devoted to the analyses and dissemination of data collected in the previous years (see published results). Preparation of the end-symposium of the project is in full progress.


Scientist responsible for the project

Bornsesteeg 69
6708 PD Wageningen
Netherlands (The) - NL

Phone: +31 317 485423
Fax: +31 317 484845


Project ID QLRT-2001-01495
Organisation Wageningen University - Nature Conservation and Plant Ecology Group
Area 5.1.1
Start date 01 December 2002
Duration (months) 36
Total cost 1 646 965 €
Total EC contribution   1 274 845 €
Status Ongoing
Web address of the project

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